Directing William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Directing William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Directing Romeo and Juliet

     Being a director in a production such as Romeo and Juliet is no easy task, and I enter into this paper with that in mind. My goals are to be creative, and do things differently from the many versions of the play we have viewed in class.      Each of those directors took the original text, written by William Shakespeare, and turned it into a unique version of their own; unique in the sense that they changed the tragedy by taking out lines, conversation or even entire scenes to better suit that particular director’s needs.
     In a more extreme version of the play, directed by Baz Lurhmann, some of the weapons such as swords were replaced by modern day guns, but despite this he still managed to keep it all in context by cleverly placing words, or using other satire. With this paper I hope to produce my own unique version of the play.
     Before I discuss my modifications to the play and how I would go about directing my own version, the way I see the relationship between Romeo and Juliet should be looked at. In my opinion, the couple isn’t genuinely in love. They feelings they have for each other is pure lust, rather then a deep passionate love. I find it unlikely that they can know each other well enough and on such a personal level to have a lasting, meaningful relationship. One minute Romeo is entirely in love with Rosaline and the next Juliet comes in to the picture and Rosaline goes out of his mind entirely. Shakespeare made note of this, by having Friar Lawrence state a question about Romeo’s short love affair with Rosaline. ‘Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here! Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.’ (2, 3, 65-68)
     The hatred between the Montagues’ and the Capulates’ are also working against the couple. While Romeo and Juliet are seemingly deeply in love, the rest of their families were continually battling it out, with death usually being the end result. How could two lovers keep a relationship together with so much violence and hated without totally abandoning their families? I feel that this is another example that the couple wasn’t deeply in love. This hate is shown with several “battle” scenes between the two families.

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     A series of “near misses” make the play even more tragic. The largest is of course at the end when the two lovers die together, but another large one could have averted the tragedy allthogether. Friar Lawrence tries to send his message to Romeo in Mantua, but Romeo fails to receive it. “I could not send it,—here it is again,— Nor get a messenger to bring it thee, 20 So fearful were they of infection.” (5,2 67-70) The outcome could have been different had this “near miss” not taken place, but it’s inclusion in the play makes it that much more tragic and interesting. These near misses would be highlighted in my version of the play due to their importance. This would probably be accomplished with dramatic music or special lighting; anything to make these scenes seem more important.
     While one would like to be able to present the entire play, that is nearly impossible to do. Time is not on your side and you can easily run a production into several hours. Keeping an audience’s attention that long, is challenging at the best of times. Due to the length of the play, scenes would need to be cut out to reduce it to a reasonable time frame. From the versions of the play we viewed in class, it’s easy to see how the different directors each take a unique approach to what they chose to cut. An example would be in Baz Luhrmann’s film version. Luhrmann chose not to use the scene where Juliet’s nurse was harassed and teased by a group of men, yet that scene was included in one of the clips that we viewed in class. While the scene may not have been of huge significance to the outcome of the play, one director did think it was worth keeping, and did not cut it.
     In my version of the play, I would cut the “nurse chase” scene as well. It plays no real significance in the play, other then to throw in a humorous element. While humor is important to engage the audience and keep their attention, there are other aspects of humor in the play, especially from the nurse. She teases Juliet all through the play in many ways and enjoys making jokes of a sexual nature. William Shakespeare uses comic relief such as this throughout the play to lighten the tragedy which the play is based on.
     I would also cut the prologue from the play. In my opinion the prologue does little to improve the story. The prologue is used to tell Romeo’s supposed cold, miserable, unanswered love for Rosaline apart from his true, mutual love with Juliet. This is also done later in the play, so there is no need to repeat it.
     Keeping with the “chopping block” theme, in finding ways to shorten the play without taking from its plot, I would cut out the fight scene between Romeo and Paris in Act 5. My main reason for doing this is so at the end of the play when the Prince says he has lost “a brace of kinsmen” the audience will only think of one, Mercutio. They have already seen him killed. In Act One, Scene four, I would cut most of the opening exchange of words between Romeo and Mercutio. I find it to be somewhat irrelevant to the overall theme of the play. Another reason behind my decision to cut it out is because of its exceptionally long length. It unnecessarily lengthens the play and it be could likely be said in fewer words. After these cuts, and perhaps a few other minor ones, I feel that the play would be shortened and would keep an audience attentive.
     My next plan would be to figure out the casting aspect of the production. I want actors with solid acting abilities and who can portray the characters of the play accurately and effectively. The most important decision in this respect would be to pick someone to play the main characters, Romeo and of course Juliet. As Baz Luhrmann did, my first choice for Romeo would have been Leonardo DiCapreo. Since that actor has already been used by Luhrmann, my second choice would likely be Brad Pitt. Julia Roberts would be Juliet. I feel that both actors would do a wonderful job portraying Romeo and Juliet and could bring out all of the emotion that irradiates from in this tragedy. Other important characters that I would likely spend a great deal of time considering an actor for would be Juliet’s nurse and Tybalt. Rosie O’Donnell would be my choice for the nurse due to her abilities to portray humor in her acting. She can come across to the audience as both humorous and serious, which is good to have in a play. Tybalt would be played by Matt Damon due to his good acting skills and in my opinion he has a similar personality as Tybalt.
     My version of Romeo and Juliet would be set in a small rural town in Canada. The town has its “uppity” high class residents and its average low to middle class families. Both sections of the population keep to themselves, but have an intense hatred for each other, based purely on class. The rich won’t associate with the poorer people, but love will change that when Romeo and Juliet meet. I would want them dressed in average street clothes for costumes, with the “richer” actors wearing brand names or more extravagant clothing to signify their social class.
     In conclusion, I feel that my version of Romeo and Juliet would convey interest and enthusiasm from the audience. The cuts I made would keep the play down to a reasonable time limit, thus keeping my audience from loosing interest. I think that I have chosen appropriate actors to play the important roles of Romeo and Juliet. These actors would deliver a good show and effectively put forth the emotions associated with Shakespeare’s dramatic writing. I would also try to highlight scenes where “near misses” occurred which made the tragedy what it is, and try and put forth the idea that Romeo and Juliet weren’t deeply in love, rather just lustful for each other.

Work Cited

Bevington, David. (Ed.) The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 4th Edition. New York: Harpor Collins, 1992.


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